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 Car Travel with Cats

cat being put into car in cat carrier

When it comes to a road trip buddy, your cat probably isn’t your first choice of partner. For many cat owners, road trips with their pets are fraught with stress. However, there will be times when a car journey is an inescapable necessity. After all, according to AAHA-AVMA feline preventive healthcare guidelines, the average domestic cat should visit a veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up up. Unless your vet does house calls, you’ll need to buckle up and hit the road together. At some point, you may end up moving house or even state, and a long journey lies on the horizon.  

Don’t despair–car comfort is achievable with your feline friend through a process of acclimatization. Cats are unable to imagine a new scenario, so their reactions are all informed by past experience. The trick is building up neutral experiences associated with a car until your cat becomes comfortable with travel. Once you’ve passed the threshold of unknowns, the car can even become a safe space for a cat with its steady purring engine and patches of sunlight.  

How to Prepare 

Because car rides can be stressful, your cat may only take one trip a year in your vehicle for its annual veterinarian check-up. And therein lies the problem. Your cat’s only association with the car is an unpleasant experience in a strange place with a strange person poking and prodding them. It’s no wonder car rides are filled with loud meowing protests! 

Get your cat familiar with the car ride routine using the following steps: 

  1. The safest way to transport your cat in the car is always confined within a pet carrier. Unrestrained cats, especially a stressed one, can cause significant distractions while driving and increase the risk of a car accident. Furthermore, if you do collide or even just hit the brakes suddenly, your cat can become a dangerous projectile and suffer injuries. Instead, look for a pet carrier that allows them space to turn around and lie down, but also keeps them snug and secure. Vents or mesh offer airflow and also give them a limited view of their surroundings, which will help avoid sensory overload.
  2. Once you have the right crate or carrier, don’t stash it away until it’s time to drive. Let your cat become familiar with the carrier by leaving it out in the living space with the door open and a familiar blanket, toy, and treat inside. If they are wary, you can even try a little catnip or feline pheromone spray to entice them inside. Reward your cat with more treats once they voluntarily get in. Don’t shut the door yet, allow them to revisit the space and settle there before you enclose them.
  3. Now that they’re comfortable in the carrier’s confines, close it up and practice picking up, walking around, and putting them down around the house. Keep repeating this until they are confident before taking the carrier out and placing it in the car.  
  4. Start the engine and sit inside the car with your cat while parked outside. Allow them to roam around the vehicle’s interior and cheek rub the space until it’s no longer a strange environment. Note: don’t attempt to drive anywhere while your cat is doing this.  
  5. Once they have become relaxed in the carrier and the car, try taking short trips – around the block and back home numerous times. Extend the driving distance in increments over time. During your first few outings, you may want to include a passenger who has hands free to soothe and manage the cat.
  6. Gradually introduce the sounds of fans and the car radio. If your kitty begins panting heavily or vocalizing its distress, you’ve gone too fast.   

What to Bring 

As discussed, the pet carrier is a valuable stepping stone to successful car travels. Preparing the following items will help get your pet from A to B comfortably: 

Harness – It’s worth getting your kitty used to wearing a harness and leash when you leave the house as part of its car ride routine. Cats are natural escape artists, so a restraint method will help you keep a hold of them when loading and unloading. Use the same approach as with the carrier: a slow introduction with frequent rewards for positive reactions.  

ID – Attach an ID tag to your cat’s harness and ensure they are microchipped before you begin venturing out in the car. During times of stress or uncertainty, a cat might be prone to flee.  

Treats – Make the car a high-reward zone. Offer your kitty special, high-value treats that only appear during car rides. If they are more responsive to catnip or play, adjust accordingly. Allow them to associate the car with these exclusive, positive experiences. If you’re taking a long drive, you can always put an interactive treat-dispensing toy in the carrier with them to occupy your cat over time.  

Water & Litter Tray – Taking a longer trip? Don’t forget the essentials. Remember to allow your cat out of its carrier every hour to use the litter tray and drink some water. 

Familiar item – A familiar blanket or soft toy from home will bring a comforting scent into the unknown car environment and help soothe your pet’s anxiety.  

If your cat still gets uptight during car rides, it’s time to consider extra measures.  Stress can negatively impact the physical and mental health of your feline friend. And seeing them stressed or fearful isn’t pleasant for you, either! ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA feline oil and feline paste can help relax your stressed cat and support an adjustment to household changes and overstimulation. In addressing your cat’s stress, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can lead to improved overall well-being and help them manage their fear-based response.   

As always, consult your veterinarian before starting your pet on any new products. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD + CBDA can help your feline friend live their best life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help.